The Straight Talk About Children and Phone Safety

As school lets out for summer, it’s time to revisit some ways parents can help kids get smart about phones.

Eleven. That’s when the average child gets his or her first cell phone. Whether your kids already have phones or you’re considering a mobile device for them in the near future, you’re likely aware of the challenges that exist when it comes to monitoring their behavior. These four tips will help you ensure your child’s mobile experience is kid-friendly and safe.

Two kids take a selfie with smartphone.

1. Hold off

As soon as one child in the family, neighborhood, or school gets a phone, chances are, yours will start asking for one. From social media apps to games, these devices unlock a whole new world of experiences for kids – one that can seem daunting for parents.

While the right time to give a mobile device to a child varies, waiting as long as possible has its benefits, unless a safety concern arises – for example, if your children walk to school by themselves. Kids who are prone to losing personal belongings or have a hard time following rules are not yet ready for the responsibility of a cell phone.

2. Make rules

When you’ve decided your child is ready for a phone, draw up a contract. While it may seem silly or unnecessary, a written agreement clearly sets boundaries and consequences, so your child knows what to expect if they misuse the device. If your children break any of those rules, make sure to stick to the contract and enforce the agreed-upon consequences.

3. Use parental controls

Among parents of teens ages 13 to 17, 61 percent have checked which websites their teen visited. (Pew Research Center, 2016)

Many parental control apps exist to help parents regulate what their kids can and cannot do on their smartphones. iPhones, for example, have built-in parental controls. Blocking adult content, monitoring text messages and web browsing, and using geofencing (setting safety zones and danger areas based on your child’s location) are just a few of the capabilities that parental control apps offer. It’s all about finding the right fit for your family.

4. Encourage safety

After selecting a kid-friendly phone and service plan from Straight Talk, it’s a good idea to sit down with your child on a regular basis to discuss his or her cell phone use. Who was texted that day? What videos did he or she watch? These kinds of conversations can help instill a sense of responsibility in your kids.

Remember to let your kids know you're there to talk things over and help them learn the right way to get the most out of their smartphone, so they can build smart mobile habits they'll use for life. You can learn more about National Safety Month at the National Safety Council’s website.